When This Is Us hits the halfway mark of its third season on Tuesday night, the NBC family drama plans to leave you with other marks — namely, of the exclamation and question variety.
“I don’t want to overpromise, but I will,” This Is Us executive producer Isaac Aptaker quips to EW. “I would say the last ten minutes of this episode are packed with about as much as ‘Oh! Whoa! Holy s—!” excitement and This Is Us moments as we’ve ever had. It is so dense. So, if you’re going to tune in late, do not tune out early because it is one thing after the next. I think people will be very anxious for this show to get back after the holidays.”
Viewers may revel in revelations in relation to the Vietnam story line, which is now unfolding in two different eras — in the early ’70s, as Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) enlisted in the Vietnam War to try to save his little brother Nicky (Michael Angarano), and in the current day, as Kevin (Justin Hartley) and his new girlfriend, Zoe (Melanie Liburd), journey there to learn more about his dad’s past. “Kevin and Zoe are finally going to go to the village where Jack has been stationed all these years,” says Aptaker. “It’s a very cool collision course of past and present, because in the past we see that Jack’s time with Nicky before he gets transferred back to his base is rapidly running out, so those two stories touch on each other and connect in a really cool way.”
As mentioned, Jack now has less than two weeks to get Nicky’s head straight, and his Thanksgiving rant about why he wouldn’t help an injured Vietnamese child further demonstrated how rotted out his mind and soul had become. With an ominous air swirling around Nicky, not to mention a ticking clock, how would Aptaker sum up what looms ahead for them? “It’s hugely surprising,” he says. “It’s one of our biggest shocking moments that we’ve had on the show.”
Back in the comforts of the present day, Randall (Sterling K. Brown) gears up for his first big public debate against his opponent, Saul Brown (Rob Morgan). “We all know that Randall is good in front of a crowd, but at the same time, Saul Brown is a career politician — he’s done this so many times, and Randall has never debated someone before — so it’s a beginner-versus-a-veteran situation. We see if he can channel all of that wonderful Randall charisma, or if he’s going to collapse under the weight of inexperience.” It sounds like there will be strain on Randall and wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), who ended last week in a tense place after Randall defended her to his campaign manager with a poor choice of words. As Aptaker teases cryptically: “[T]hat offhanded comment that Randall made in the soup kitchen is the start of something much bigger and much scarier for this couple and where they’re headed.”
That other member of the Big Three, Kate (Chrissy Metz), will see her career on a collision course with her pregnancy. “It’s an interesting story about how she’s trying to juggle a high-risk pregnancy with a job that has her sitting in a car many hours a day traveling around singing as Adele,” says Aptaker, “which is not necessarily best for her baby.”
Aptaker adds that “rollercoaster” is an appropriate word to describe the episode, which is titled “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning.” “There’s a lot of highs and then a lot of lows and a lot of ‘Wow-I-did-not-see-that-coming!s,” he hints. “It’s all over the place — in the best way.”
This Is Us, which airs its fall finale on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, returns to the schedule in January.